The Pathhead Post Office Irregularities

1881 CENSUS Robert Stenhouse (head)

1891 CENSUS Robert Stenhouse (head)

1881 Census

1891 Census


Charge against a Fife Assistant Postmistress
At Cupar yesterday – before Sheriff Gillespie – a young woman named Grace Craig, assistant sub-postmistress at Pathhead Post Office, Kirkcaldy, was judicially examined on a charge of embezzlement, and, after emitting a declaration, she was sent to prison pending further inquiries.
(Dundee Courier & Argus [Dundee, Scotland] 8 Sept. 1894)

The Pathhead Post Office Irregularities
Yesterday, at Cupar, Mrs Stenhouse, Pathhead was judicially examined – before Hon. Sheriff Substitute Gray – in connection with the recent irregularities at Pathhead Post Office, and after emitting a declaration, she was sent to prison pending further inquiries.
(The Dundee Courier & Argus (Dundee, Scotland), Wednesday, September 12, 1894)

Embezzlement by a Fife Postmistress

In Dundee Sheriff Court yesterday – before Sheriff Campbell Smith – Grace Craig (23) , assistant sub-mistress at Pathhead Post Office, Kirkcaldy, a respectably dressed young woman, was charged with forgery and embezzlement.
It was alleged that, between 21st February and 30th June, she had received money from seven parties on behalf of the Post Office Savings Bank amounting to £70 12s, and that she embezzled £69 3s of it.
In order to conceal the embezzlement and prevent its discovery, it was alleged she failed to enter the sums so deposited in the Post Office Savings Bank account sheet.
In regard to one sum of £40, deposited by Margaret Todd, Pathhead, it was alleged that, with a view to concealment, accused uttered as genuine an acknowledgement for the sum from the Savings Bank Department in London, by forging and fabricating an acknowledgment which belonged to another depositor.
In regard to another sum of £9 deposited by Robert Killock, it was averred that she had entered into the Savings Bank account the sum of 9s only, and that when she received the acknowledgment for that sum she changed the 9s to £9.
Another case was that of altering the notice of a depositor’s withdrawal from £1 10s to £11 10s, and appropriating the balance.
Accused PLEADED GUILTY to the various charges.
Mr Peter Johnstone, solicitor, who appeared on behalf of the accused, stated that he had visited her in prison on the previous day. She was twenty-three years of age.
When five years of age she was adopted by Mr Stenhouse, the former postmaster, who, along with herself and his wife, were the only occupants of the house.
Until February, 1892, Stenhouse was postmaster of the Pathhead Post Office.
While he was postmaster the girl was learning dressmaking.
While at this employment considerable short comings also took place at the Post Office.
In February, 1892, the auditor, who was sent each quarter to examine the affairs of the Post Office, discovered that the office was £25 in arrears.
The postmaster found money to make this loss good, and, on the advice of the auditor, he gave up his post, and his wife was appointed postmistress.
The girl then left her employment, and became assistant postmistress.
Shortly afterwards the family became involved more deeply in financial difficulties.
Over and above the household expenses.
Mrs Stenhouse had to pay £30 into a building society.
The accounts were checked every three months, but the postmistress had always to borrow money in order to show a balance. With regard to the charge in which the girl was stated to have altered the withdrawal notice from £1 10s to £11 10s, a Mrs Johnstone had signed the paper for the latter sum, and went away after filling up an application for it.
This £10 was put into the till, and the girl Craig did not use any of it for herself, it being used, as she alleged, by Mrs Stenhouse for household purposes.
In February, 1894 Mrs Todd paid in £40 to the Savings Bank and it was suggested by the Stenhouse’s that this money should be SUPPRESSED UNTIL AFTER THE BALANCING.

The accused foolishly, acting under instructions, did this.
With regard to the acknowledgment, it was to have been altered to Mrs Todd, care of the Post Office.
With reference to Killock, the accused told him that the Stenhouse’s received this money.
On their suggestions she altered the 9s to £9.
In another instance she had merely forgotten to make the entry in the account sheet.
This sheet, from some cause unknown, had disappeared.
It was afterwards found by Post Office officials in Stenhouse’s bedroom.
He submitted that, although criminal, the accused had been acting under instructions, which considerably mitigated her offence. Practically she had been forced to commit these crimes by those two folks who had adopted her.
Had she refused there was no doubt that she would have been turned to the door, and she had thought that her best plan would be to do what she was told.
She had been a tool in the hands of others.
She had been in prison since 7th September.
In the circumstances he pressed for a lenient sentence.
Mr Agnew, procurator fiscal, said that this was altogether rather a painful case.
To a large extent the girl had been led away, and induced to do what she had done through the circumstances in which her adopted parents found themselves.
He understood that Mrs Stenhouse was to be dealt with.
Proceedings would not be taken against Mr Stenhouse, who was an old man over eighty years of age.
These abstractions of money from the till had been GOING ON FOR TWO YEARS.
No doubt at the beginning it was intended to replace the money, as a book was kept for the purpose of entering the money taken out of the official till.
This had increased, however, and loans had to be incurred in order to pass the official auditor.
All three parties were more or less concerned in the crimes.
He thought that the depositors and Savings Bank would lose to some extent.
The money abstracted went into a common purse.
Mr Johnstone stated that 7s 6d was used to buy liquor every week.
The fact of the officials being aware that defalcations were going on from February, 1892, was athumb_stc386235_1024lmost an incentive to crime.
The Procurator Fiscal said it would have been a case of cruelty to have deprived the family of their living at that time.
Addressing the accused, the Sheriff said that the crimes singly were of a serious nature, but when taken in the aggregate they appeared even more serious.
Her case was different from that of a postman or any other servant who was seized with a sudden impulse to commit a theft.
In her case there had been a system of embezzling Savings Bank money for a considerable period.
On the other hand, as the Procurator Fiscal had admitted, there was a strong reason to believe that the accused got no special benefit from the money, and that the sums embezzled were not applied to personal purposes, but were used for the support of the family.
Perhaps to some extent she unconsciously slipped into this course of conduct.
That was no complete or adequate excuse for committing crimes of that kind.
It was hardly possible for her to have continued doing these acts for two years without again and again being impressed that she was engaged in a course of crime that some time or other would lead to ruin, as it had done.
He had every inclination to deal as leniently with her as he could.
Not merely the Savings Bank, but the public, however, required to be protected from frauds of this nature.
He accordingly sentenced her to nine months’ imprisonment, dating from her apprehension.
(The Dundee Courier & Argus (Dundee, Scotland), Thursday, October 18, 1894)

Postmistress sentenced to Prison
Grace Craig,
a young woman, was yesterday sentenced in Dundee Sheriff Court to nine months imprisonment for embezzlement and forgery, committed while acting as assistant sub postmistress at Pathhead, Kirkcaldy.
(Dundee Courier & Argus [Dundee, Scotland] 18 Oct. 1894)

This is not the end of this story the Pathhead Post Office Irregularities continue………….